Let me begin with a disclaimer. If I were the headmaster of the school where these two gentlemen were students, I would not have allowed them to participate in any school debates for the reasons that will come up later in the article.
Joking aside, the duo make for a good contest of spokespersons as they are providing a good insight into their parties’ postures on issues and of course a lot of entertainment to the viewers. In this article, I have made an attempt to look at their overall spokesmanship comparatively.
Both of them have some commonalities. They are easy to listen to, articulate, to the point, not long-winded or exasperatingly wordy. Sometimes both of them sound a bit too smug and even obnoxious but that is, perhaps, part of the deal.
Objectivity: Both of them do their homework well. They try to whip out some facts as often as they can. MK Subba had an enviable debut as spokesperson with his successful pursuit of OFOJ. He debated quoting documents from here and there. To the credit of his team’s rigorous onslaught on the SKM government’s decision to sack those who joined during the MCC, the matter was resolved. Jacob Khaling has a track record of numerous press conferences where he has attracted people’s interest with the evidentiary facts that he produced. However, often times both of them use rhetoric to substitute the objective facts that they lack.
Fluency: Jacob Khaling has an enviable fluency and way with words. That could be partly attributable to his long stint as the SKM spokesperson. His oratory skill had won him a best speaker award way back in the time when he was with the SDF party. He has a knack of conveying a message effortlessly without being too verbose. This is a great trait for any politician and he is still young – in his early 40s perhaps. MK Subba is a rookie in the field of public speaking. He may not have Khaling’s fluency but he does have an uncanny way with words and keeps his listeners wanting to hear more.
Sense of humour: Here MK Subba surely has the upper hand. He seems to have a dry sense of humour and that gives such a sharp edge to his points. Jacob Khaling is satirical too but what he lacks is the wit that his counterpart has.
Respect of Colleagues: Again Jacob Khaling is arguably one of the most well respected leaders in the frontline of the SKM camp. That gives him huge confidence as a spokesperson. MK Subba, being a new entrant into, the party may not enjoy the same position as his counterpart does. However, a lack of confidence does not seem to be his problem. Every time he speaks, he seems to fill the platform with his presence.
Linguistic Advantage: MK Subba is effortlessly bilingual. His English press conferences have been quite impressive. I, for one, have not heard Jacob Khaling addressing any question in English. It is always advantageous to have proficiency in multiple languages but that is not really a significant advantage. The world’s topmost leaders are, for the most part, monolingual.
With these commendations, one must also realize that the emergence of such spokesmanship is not a good sign in totality. There are areas of concern which Sikkim must ponder. Here are a few of them:
Playing to the gallery: Both of them often use an almost derogatory language or tone. (This is one thing a school headmaster would never allow). They will definitely earn some amount of public applause by playing to the gallery but that harms the essence of politics in the long run. They must be aware of their position of being trendsetters by virtue of representing Sikkim’s chief parties.
Personal Attacks: Both of them are guilty of stretching their talks way beyond the limit. It is quite disconcerting to see their inclination to subject their audience to their personal rivalry. Spokesmen must never forget that they are there to represent the entire body of their party’s ideology and what they speak is a reflection of what they represent. Shaming the opponent by divulging the excruciating details of their personal life is not something to be executed by the high office of spokesperson. Sometimes, what transpires in closed rooms must be told in public if there are wider ramifications to it but not without evidence to back it up.
Lack of details of policies: The emergence of post-poll politics in Sikkim is a sad reality. The twin spokesmen from Sikkim’s leading political parties are spearheading this emergent brand of politics. They are sharp with their words, they hit the target hard and they get a massive following instantly but on deep analysis, there is very little substance to what they say. That is precisely because both of them do not spend any time discussing the details of their policies. If they do, perhaps they lose the interest of the audience. All they do 99 percent of the time is to assert and reassert the “talking points” that appeal to people. All they do is highlight the symptoms and attack them. This is where one misses those like Bhim Dahal who would go through the rigmarole of delving into policies. Our current political debate is disconnected from the details of policies. Political discourse that evades a deeper investigation of ideological soundness and intellectual analysis of political postures is just skin deep. This fault lies squarely with public preference. Maybe Sikkim doesn’t deserve more than what we are getting at the moment. The emergent population does not seem to have the interest or patience to listen to such details and the harm could all be ours. Time will tell. Till then, we will continue to enjoy what Sikkim politics have to offer – what other choice do we have?
“Both of them have some commonalities. They are easy to listen to, articulate, to the point, not long-winded or exasperatingly wordy. Sometimes both of them sound a bit too smug and even obnoxious but that is, perhaps, part of the deal.”